When Gifted Children Get Labeled Cheaters If Their Work Is Smarter Than Their Grade Level

Unfortunately, being called a liar or a cheater when a child’s work is too advanced happens all the time. Recently a mother shared her story with me. She received this letter from a principal:

Hi J,
I had an opportunity to speak with Miss K and the judge that evaluated Liam’s science project to express the concerns you shared with me. What I believe has happened is simple, but rather hard to swallow, and that’s human error. As I thought, the judge found Liam’s project to be in a category by itself and didn’t think a 6th grader was capable of such a high level of critical thinking. Consequently, they didn’t give enough credit where credit was due and Liam did pay a price for it. I, honestly, do not believe the judge had anything but pure intentions. They have a history of judging for several years and have done a GREAT job in the past. This was one of those very unusual occasions when a judgment was made that was in error. All I can do is apologize on behalf of the school. 

My first thought after speaking with the judge is to find a remedy. If possible, I’d like to ask you to bring Liam’s entire project into my office and allow me to find another objective judge to conduct an evaluation that will replace the one in question. I don’t know how that may/may not affect Liam’s potential participation at the District level competition. Our hands may be tied on that issue because I know the representative names have already been submitted and I believe we have a limited number of entries per grade/category. I can’t see taking a student off of the list who has already been awarded that opportunity. Again, I’m sorry.

If you would like me to have his project judged again, please let me know and I will arrange for that to happen. The new evaluation might affect his science grade in a positive manner, so I would encourage you to bring it in. I will, respectfully, leave that up to you (and Liam). 

I’m obviously disappointed in the fact that this happened at the expense of Liam. I will, personally, apologize to him for the error. 

Thank you for your understanding and for sharing your legitimate concerns.

Her son shared his point of view:
Recently I did a science project on simple Maglev trains. I constructed a simple Maglev train and then on my science grade I was docked points because the judge said that my experiment was too advanced for my age. I'm really mad because it makes me think that going above and beyond is a bad thing. I feel that I was wrongly judged.

What you can do:
Be aware that this can and does happen.